photo courtesy of Cam Kramer
One week is in the books, and we’ve got plenty more action coming your way. Last week’s matches turned out pretty good, with some of them coming down to the wire while others were lopsided in favor of the higher-ranked wrestler.
We’re back at it again this week with the top matches to watch, and a little more variety. More teams are participating in duals around the country this week, so that means more chances to see the top wrestlers go at it early in the season.
125: Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) vs. Joey Prata (Virginia Tech)
Northwestern gets its season started this weekend against a Virginia Tech team that has already made some noise across the wrestling landscape this fall. The Hokies knocked off Missouri last Saturday in a 29-10 dual victory. A big part of that win came at 125, where Joey Prata defeated Dack Punke 2-0.
Prata is filling in for the injured Korbin Myers, who is moving down to 125 this season. He did his job in the first meet of the season, but he’ll have a tougher task this week when he faces No. 3 Rivera.
Rivera is coming off his best season to date, winning the Big Ten Championships and placing third at NCAAs last year. The 125-pound weight class is a tough one, but Rivera is out to show why he belongs at the top, starting with this week’s match in Blacksburg.
Bonus: This weekend is Virginia Tech’s first-ever Mat on the Mound. The dual against Northwestern will take place outside at English Field, home of the Virginia Tech baseball team. The nice change of scenery combined with the quality matches makes this a dual you won’t want to miss.
133: Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) vs. Casey Cobb (Navy)
Penn State fans have been patiently waiting for this season to start. Coming off their eighth national title in nine years, this year’s team is expected to be challenged a little more closely at the NCAA Championships. But make no mistake, Penn State is still the team to beat, and that starts on Sunday when the Nittany Lions host Navy in State College.
Navy has started its season 2-1 after wrestling three duals last weekend. 133-pounder Casey Cobb is 1-1 on the season, defeating Fresno State’s Gary Joint 10-4 before losing to Wisconsin’s Seth Gross 11-2.
Bravo-Young got his career off to a solid start last season, going 25-7 and finishing eighth at the NCAA Tournament. Going into his sophomore year, he’s earned a No. 3 ranking in his weight class and has high expectations. He’ll look to get off on the right foot with a solid performance this weekend.
141: Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) vs. Real Woods (Stanford)
This should be a good one as both wrestlers are coming off tournament victories from opening weekend. Pletcher started the season ranked No. 3 in the country, but he went 5-0 at the Michigan State Open and defeated No. 1 Dom Demas in the championship bout. The Ohio State senior is off to a hot start and has moved up to No. 1 in this week’s rankings.
His opponent had a pretty good opening weekend himself. But before we get into that, I want to add that Woods gets a nomination for best name in wrestling in my book.
Now back to this weekend’s match. Woods went 4-0 at the Battle at the Citadel last weekend, picking up a fall and a tech fall along the way. He capped off his performance with a 2-1 decision against No. 15 Sa’Derian Perry of Old Dominion. The redshirt freshman went 22-1 last year wrestling unattached. He won four different open tournaments and placed second at the Southern Scuffle. He’s primed for a breakout season this year, and he can get it started with a strong performance against Pletcher on Sunday.
149: Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) vs. Requir van der Merwe (Stanford)
Sticking with the Ohio State-Stanford dual for 149, this one gives us another matchup of ranked wrestlers. Sasso comes in at No. 5 in this week’s rankings. The freshman from Nazareth, Pa. has already gotten his career off to a good start, going 5-0 last weekend on his way to a win at the Michigan State Open. Sasso registered three pins and two tech falls on the weekend, with none of his matches going the full seven minutes. Quite the start, which shows exactly why he’s so high in the rankings.
He’ll face No. 17 van der Merwe this week, who just might get a nomination for best name as well. The junior from Mountain Lakes, N.J. has gotten off to a solid start as well, going 3-1 on the way to second place at the Battle at the Citadel. He picked up two decisions and one fall last Sunday before ultimately losing to American’s Kizhan Clarke.
This matchup should be a good one in a dual that’s bound to have plenty of great competition.
157: Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) vs. B.C. LaPrade (Virginia Tech)
Another match from the Mat on the Mound in Blacksburg, this one features a pair of ranked wrestlers. This will be Deakin’s first match this season and he’s coming off a career year for the Wildcats. He qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second-straight season and finished with a career-best of sixth-place. He was ranked as high as No. 2 in the country at one point last year, and comes in at No. 3 going into this season.
LaPrade has a match under his belt already this season, and it was a big one. The redshirt junior defeated then No. 14 Jarrett Jacques in overtime to help lead the Hokies to a win over Missouri. With the upset victory and earning ACC Wrestler of the Week honors, LaPrade moved up a spot in this week’s rankings to No. 15. He’ll have some momentum this week as he takes on one of the top wrestlers in the country at his weight.
165: Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) vs. Tanner Skidgel (Navy)
We’ve got a big one at 165 this week. Two-time NCAA Champion and defending runner-up Vincenzo Joseph takes on No. 13 Tanner Skidgel in Penn State’s season-opening dual. Joseph enters his senior season with a chance to become a three-time champion for the Nittany Lions. The senior from Pittsburgh has 70 wins in his career and racked up 14 falls last season for Penn State.
Skidgel got his season off to a 2-1 start after the Midshipmen’s trip to California last weekend. He started off with a 3-1 victory over Fresno State’s Adam Kemp before losing a major decision to No. 3 Evan Wick of Wisconsin. Skidgel rebounded by finishing the weekend with a 3-0 decision over California Baptist’s Josh Grant. He’s got some momentum going into this weekend, but the match against Joseph will be a tough one for the junior.
174: Dylan Lydy (Purdue) vs. Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)
Before the Journeymen Collegiate Classic this Sunday, we get the Journeymen Northeast Duals on Saturday. The 2 p.m. match on Mat 1 is one to keep an eye on as No. 15 Arizona State takes on Purdue.
Lydy got off to a good start at the Michigan State Open last weekend, winning his first two matches by major decision. However, he suffered a medical forfeit in his quarterfinals bout that ended his day.
Valencia is just getting his season started this weekend. Coming off a redshirt season, the junior is ranked No. 11 going into this year. He’s had success in the past, winning two Pac-12 Championships, and he’ll look to start this year off right with a win over Lydy on Saturday.
184: Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. Max Lyon (Purdue)
We’re going back-to-back with this one. Another great matchup between the Sun Devils and Boilermakers, and this weight again features two ranked wrestlers.
Valencia is coming off his third All-American season and his second-straight NCAA title. He’s one of the top wrestlers in the country and while he could finish his career as a three-time champion, he’ll do it at a higher weight class. Valencia is moving up to 184 this year after wrestling the past three years at 174. It’s always interesting to watch a wrestler who moves up, but there’s a lot of confidence that Valencia can handle the higher weight.
His opponent for this weekend’s dual has already seen some action this season. Lyon took sixth place at the Michigan State Open last week, going 4-2 in the tournament. All of his victories were bonus-point wins as he racked up three tech falls and one major decision. After qualifying for the NCAA Championships for the first time last year, he’ll look to improve upon that success in his junior season.
197: Kyle Conel (Penn State) vs. Jacob Koser (Navy)
Perhaps one of the most anticipated debuts this season, Conel is slated to make his first start for the Nittany Lions this weekend. The senior transfer from Kent State had a Cinderella run at the 2018 NCAA Championships, going 6-1 and placing third as an unseeded wrestler. He took down the eighth and ninth seeds in that year’s tournament while also picking up two victories over top seed Kollin Moore.
Conel missed most of last season with an injury an ultimately decided to transfer to Penn State for his final season of eligibility. He’s got big shoes to fill, taking the place of three-time NCAA Champion Bo Nickal, and he’ll get started on that path this Sunday.
His opponent is Navy’s Jacob Koser, who got his season, and career, off to a good start last weekend. Koser picked up three wins for the Midshipmen on their trip to California, including a first-period fall over Fresno State’s Ryan Reyes. This week’s match will be a tough one for him, but it will be fun to watch how he handles Conel when they meet on the mat.
285: Jere Heino (Campbell) vs. Demetrius Thomas (Pittsburgh)
This one comes to us as part of TOM’s Dual of the Week. No. 11 Pittsburgh hosts No. 21 Campbell and there are bound to be some great matches, including the heavyweight bout.
Heino, who comes in at No. 6 in this week’s rankings, returns to the starting lineup after redshirting last season. He did compete unattached at the Midlands Championships, going 3-2, but that was his only event of the year. The redshirt senior has qualified for two NCAA Tournaments, and will look to add another wrestle in one more before it’s all said and done.
Thomas comes in at No. 11 in the rankings and has some unfinished business. He had a career year last season, going 27-5 and winning the ACC Championships. He went just 1-2 at the NCAA Tournament, though, ending his season without making it to a podium.
He’s already 4-1 on the year after finishing third at the Michigan State Open last weekend. He’ll look to continue that momentum with a big win Saturday against Campbell.
So there you go. Those are your 10 matches to watch this week. Sit back, relax, and enjoy some great college wrestling on this early November weekend.